Indian Summer Sortie

34 participants in 19 cars (18 of which were Alfas) — this is a record for the AONE fall Berkshires Sortie. Two years ago, on a beautiful fall day, five cars total managed to make the Sortie, whereas in 2019, fourteen cars turned out, but on a rainy day, during which the tour organizer experienced a senior moment, missed a turn, and led half the group down the wrong road (realized only when that wrong road turned in to a dirt road), and another tourer ran over a piece of firewood and damaged his exhaust and fuel injection sensor wiring.

So for 2020, we opted for something, as Monty Python would say, completely different. Every Sortie from the first one, in 2003, to 2019 began at the Fillin' Station, a diner at a truck stop off I-91 in South Deerfield. For 2020, the Sortie began at the Four Leaf Clover, a restaurant in Bernardston, Mass. near the Massachusetts-Vermont state line that offers indoor and outdoor seating (and take-away). The first two cars — organizers Peter Walker and Meg Anderson in their 1977 Spider and Jeff Greenfield and Griff, Jeff's canine navigator, in their 1971 Montreal — arrived shortly after 9AM, and their hungry occupants spilled out and ordered breakfast, which they enjoyed (Griff too) at one of the sunny outdoor tables, as seventeen other AONE touring cars trickled in.

Not only was the turnout tremendous (and it would have been even more tremendous had Frank Anigbo's Maserati not let him down the night before and Tom Freiberger's fuel pump not given out on him in the short distance between his home and the starting point), but there was a wide array of Alfa models, from the oldest, Roger Cassin's beautiful 1954 1900 CSS, to the 2020 Giulia of Andy and Betty Kargakos (their second new Giulia, replacing their 2107 one). Greg and Andrea Stidsen and Jon Rabin and his family also arrived in late-model Giulias, and Frank and Mary LaSala and Derek Whitaker came in their Stelvios. Garry Prime's 4C rounded out the 21st-century Alfas. There were three other 1970s Spiders, in addition to Peter's and Meg's: Liz and John Barker's, Steve and Nancy Perry's, George Chris's, and three 1980s Spiders: John and Roberta Rowntree's, Drew and Sara Shaw's, and Deb and Dan Donovan's. Jeff's Montreal, Stefan and Sonchu Gavell's 1973 Junior Z, John and Lauren DeWaele's 1972 GTV, and Jim Scutti's 1985 Milano added interesting variety to all of those 1970s and 1980s Spiders. Even the one "lesser car," John Feng's 1974 BMW 3.0CS, was an impressive addition to our array of automobiles.

The large turnout, the great variety of cars, and the different assembly point were not all that was different about this Sortie. Very few of the roads on this tour had been used on previous sorties. The route ran north from Bernardston, along Route 5, to Guilford VT, then on a series of country roads, back into Massachusetts, through Leyden and Colrain, then down the busy Colrain-Shelburne Road to Massachusetts Route 2, for less than two miles, to the Bardwells Ferry Road, through Shelburne and Conway. More country roads led through Ashfield, then back to Conway, where we picked up fabled Route 116 for five and a half miles (where unfortunately a slow-moving Lexus proved an annoying rolling chicane). Only a small portion of the tour ran on numbered highways; instead, we enjoyed the absence of traffic and the lovely late-summer country views along such roads as Weaterhead Hollow Road, West Leyden Road, and Beldingville Road.

Unlike in some previous years, there were no mishaps on the 2020 Sortie (excepting Frank's and Tom's misadventures trying to get to the tour). Amazingly, all 19 cars managed to remain together throughout the entirety of the tour — except on one small occasion near the beginning of the Beldingville Road in Ashfield. After crossing a small bridge, this road comes to a T. The road itself continues to the left, and a different road (Bellus Road) is on the right. The tour leader disregarded his own instruction to "use the slinky method," meaning that every driver must make sure that the car behind sees where he or she makes a turn. Thinking that Garry Prime, in his 4C Spider behind Peter and Meg, would know to take the left turn to stay on the Beldingville Road, Peter neglected to wait long enough to be sure that Garry saw that Peter and Meg had taken the left turn. As a result, Garry and some other cars turned right, but when they found themselves a little later on a dirt road, they were able to retrace, rejoin the route, and re-unite a few miles later with the rest of the group.

Another difference was that, whereas some past Sorties were — at around 100 miles — too long (a few, including last year's, even had to be aborted toward the end in order to meet a restaurant's lunch reservation deadline), the 2020 iteration was barely 60 miles long. So when our peloton reached South Ashfield, we followed another series of country roads to Casa Walker, where instead of sitting down at a restaurant for lunch, everyone broke out the picnic food and gear they had brought and set themselves up on the lawn, overlooking the view toward Vermont and New Hampshire. The choice of a bring-your-own picnic rather than a restaurant as the tour's final destination was made necessary in order to maintain social distancing during the pandemic. But nobody seemed to mind the change. If and when the pandemic ends and it becomes easier again for large groups to go together to restaurants, continuing to picnic might prove a popular choice.

Although the temperatures did not break out of the 50s, there was not a cloud in the sky all day and no wind to speak of, so in the sun no one felt cold. Everyone lounged, ate, drank, maintained proper social distancing, and yet managed to enjoy each other's company. As the euphoria of the beautiful day started to wear off, our group of tourers began to entertain thoughts of home. Peter quizzed everyone about their ultimate destinations and offered directions on the best way to return to Route 2 or to get to the Mass Turnpike or discussed the pros and cons of the three different ways to go to nearby Northampton.

Retrospect will probably suggest that the success of this year's Sortie was in great part thanks to the pandemic: alternative activities were fewer and AONE members are hungry for activities in this period of event cancellations. Of course, the lovely weather helped considerably as well. Hopefully next year will be equally blessed.Tiny Quadrifoglio

Berkshires Sortie Participants

Peter Walker and Meg Anderson, 1977 Spider
Jeff Greenfield, 1971 Montreal
Andy and Betty Kargacos, 2020 Giulia
Roger Cassin and Miriam Haven, 1954 1900 CSS
Derek Whitaker, 2018 Stelvio
Garry Prime, 2018 4C Spider
Liz and John Barker, 1977 Spider
Jim Scutti, 1985 Milano
Stefan and Sonchu Gavell, 1973 Junior Zagato
Greg and Andrea Stidsen, 2017 Giulia Ti
Frank and Mary LaSala, 2018 Stelvio
Jon Rabin, Amy Boyd, Jacob Rabin, and Kate Rabin, 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio
Drew and Sara Shaw, 1989 Spider Graduate
John Feng, 1974 BMW 3.0CS
Steve and Nancy Perry, 1978 Spider
John and Lauren DeWaele, 1972 GTV
Dan and Deb Donovan, 1988 Spider
George Chris, 1971 Spider
John and Roberta Rowntree, 1987 Spider

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Indian Summer Sortie